Mazeroski memorabilia auction rakes in $1.7M (Yahoo Sports)

The uniform that Bill Mazeroski wore when he hit a walk-off home run for the Pittsburgh Pirates during the final game of the 1960 World Series has a new owner after an auction of the Hall of Famer’s memorabilia. Other items sold at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory auction in Louisville, Ky., include six Gold Glove awards he won during the 1950s and ’60s.

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Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez makes ‘kamikaze’ catch and flips head-first into Padres dugout

This must be the season that everybody on the Pittsburgh Pirates gets what he wants. Not only did the Bucs take another step toward clinching a playoff spot for the first time in 21 years Thursday afternoon, but catcher Tony Sanchez fulfilled a lifelong wish by making one of the best plays of the Major League Baseball season.

Sanchez made a barely believable catch, despite flipping over into the visitor’s dugout and hitting his head, to put an exclamation point on a 10-1 victory against the San Diego Padres that lowered to four Pittsburgh’s magic number to qualify for the postseason.

After dropping the first three games of the series and causing some worry, the Pirates road the Gerrit Cole train and a resurgent offense to a big lead in the top of the eighth inning. That’s when Sanchez risked injury by refusing to give up on a ball that others might have. He just doesn’t have an “off” switch, he says.

“It’s in my blood. You see, I’m a catcher. You don’t take any plays off,” Sanchez told Pirates TV in a postgame interview. “I’ve waited my entire life to kamikaze into a dugout like that.”

Yeah, except those guys weren’t supposed to come back from their missions. It’s going to be fun what Sanchez tells his poor mom about what happened on Chris Denorfia’s pop up.

Quickly tossing his mask away, Sanchez casually shouted “I got it,” as if he were about to make a routine play. It was anything but. Sanchez kept track of the ball, which had a downward trajectory that brought him closer and closer to the visitors dugout, which he also kept looking for. Finally out of room, Sanchez reached over the railing and caught the ball before tumbling, head-first, over the side. Sanchez was able to reach out with both hands and do a semi-cartwheel to break his fall, but he ended up hitting his head on concrete steps.

Sanchez wasn’t about to get any help from the Padres players; any of them already in the area had vacated, and nobody else was rushing to prevent another team’s catcher from falling. That’s another of baseball’s unwritten rules. Until he hit the ground, Sanchez was on his own, and he probably was OK with that.

“You see the ball … you stick your glove out there, your weight just transfers over and you’re going, ‘Oh, shoot, I’m done.’ You know, it’s awesome,” Sanchez said. “I landed on the ground and the first thing I did was check if the ball was still in my glove and it was.”

Padres catcher Nick Hundley and a couple of others did reach out after the damage had been done. Not that Sanchez could identify any of them.

“I looked at Hundley — him and I have talked a lot since we’ve been playing the Padres — and I had no idea know who he was,” Sanchez said.

The Pirates might want to check him for a concussion, just in case.

People frequently ask how the Pirates finally broke a streak of losing seasons and are headed to the playoffs (probably) for the first time since 1992. The biggest reason might be their superior defense, and Sanchez provided Exhibit A against the Padres. It’s something of a coincidence, and yet it’s not one at all, that Mike LaValliere helped Sanchez with plays like that during spring training. LaValliere (and Don Slaught) were the Pirates catchers in ’92.

What goes around, comes around. Even if it takes 21 years.

Let’s talk pennant-race baseball!
Engage @bigleaguestew, @Townie813, @AnswerDave and @MikeOz on Twitter
and check out the BLS Facebook Page.

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Wainwright moves Cards into first in NL Central (Yahoo! Sports)

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Adam Wainwright bounced back from back-to-back sub-par outings with seven shutout innings and David Freese homered to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 5-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night.

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BIG series: Pirates and Cardinals clash for NL Central supremacy

As the pennant races heat up, Big League Stew takes a closer look at some of the biggest series down the stretch.

Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals.

SITUATION: Those surprising Pirates bring a one-and-a-half-game NL Central lead into a three-game series against the Cardinals beginning Friday. The Cards were tops in the division in May, June and July. But the Pirates haven’t faded down the stretch this season like they have in years past, instead surging into first place and making this NL Central race the most entertaining in all of baseball.

This three-game set could swing the division in either way. If the Cards can manage a sweep, it could kill the Pirates spirits and put St. Louis in control again. If the Pirates sweep then they’re looking even stronger for the division title. If it’s the most likely scenario, some kind of split, then the grappling continues. Both teams are almost assured postseason berths, but getting that division title and avoiding a do-or-die wild card game is of the utmost importance.

PREVIOUSLY: These teams have played each other 11 time since July 29, with the series leaning 7-4 in favor of the Pirates. The Pirates also lead the overall season series 10-6. This is the final meeting between the two teams in the regular season.

PITCHERS:
Friday: A.J. Burnett (7-9, 3.09 ERA) vs. Joe Kelly (7-3, 2.82 ERA)
Saturday: Jeff Locke (9-4, 3.22 ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (15-9, 3.14 ERA)
Sunday: Charlie Morton (7-3, 3.00 ERA) vs. Michael Wacha (2-0, 3.20 ERA)

STORYLINES TO WATCH:
Will the Pirates get win No. 82? The Pirates (81-58) are one win away from their first winning season in 20 years. It’s not a matter of if, but when they get it and doing it against perennial NL Central power St. Louis would certainly be good for morale.

• Will the Cards rebound? They just lost three of four against the other NL Central contender, the Cincinnati Reds. St. Louis is 2-6 in its last eight games. Now is the time to get it together.

• Which starter can find their big-game stuff on Saturday? Cards ace Adam Wainwright has gotten beaten up in the last two starts, both against the Reds. He gave up a un-Wainwrightian nine runs in two innings on Aug. 28 then six runs in six innings on Sept. 2. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s Jeff Locke, once a very pleasant surprise, has come back to earth. He hasn’t pitched into the sixth inning since July 26. He gave up 10 hits and four runs in four innings the last time he faced the Cardinals.

Baseball season’s in full swing. Don’t miss a thing.
Follow @MikeOz and @bigleaguestew, on Twitter, along with the BLS Facebook page.

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Walker homers, Pirates retake NL Central lead (Yahoo! Sports)

Pittsburgh Pirates Neil Walker (18) is congratulated after hitting a three-run home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Charlie Morton is doing his part to ensure that the Pittsburgh Pirates end their 20-year playoff drought.

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